Monthly Archives: November 2014

Alaska inaugural speeches past and present

On Monday at 11:30 a.m., Gov.-elect Bill Walker and Lt. Gov.-elect Byron Mallott will be sworn in and by noon, it’ll be official. After the swearing in, both Walker and Mallott will be giving 10-15 minute addresses, which is unusual. Normally, the lt. gov. is on stage, but doesn’t speak. (Fun factoid: it’s also the first time in history that both the governor and lt. governor will have been Alaska-born.)

As of Sunday night, both of their speeches were still being worked on. However, the term “speech” might be overstating things. Don’t expect a lot of formality from either of them. Both tend to be extemporaneous, off-the-cuff speakers, which has served them well on the trail. But such casual speeches seldom lend themselves to further study or go down in the history books. Mallott, much more than Walker, can get poetic when he speaks, but neither will likely start off like this, as Wally Hickel did in his 1967 inaugural address:

This is a time when Alaska’s flag is high up the mast, the wind bellies out the sales, and the tide is with us. We sit at the top of a continent—at the headwaters of the Pacific—and our mooring lines are strained with the urge to break loose and sail into the future on another voyage of discovery.

What we do know is that Walker will spend some time introducing himself to the electorate, Continue reading


Chart of the day: Oil prices fall, but still reasons to be optimistic

Here’s some not-so-cheery news to for your Saturday.  Brent crude futures was trading at $70.15 a barrel on Friday and West Texas Intermediate crude oil dropped to $66.15.

oil price chart

That said, reader Jon K. says there’s reasons to be optimistic in Alaska. He culls from Friday’s Petroleum News to make his case: (Links added by me.)

Liberty again: Having purchased a large slice of BP’s interests in four BP northern Alaska oil fields, Hilcorp Alaska is going to file a new proposed plan of the development for the Liberty field, offshore in the Beaufort Sea. Hilcorp has acquired a 50 percent interest in Liberty and is now the field operator. ….Essentially, on the North Slope Hilcorp will adopt the same strategy as it has been employing in the Cook Inlet basin, where as a consequence of a multitude of small development and upgrade projects the company has doubled oil production from the aging fields that the company acquired from Chevron and Marathon.

Another rig for Kuparuk: ConocoPhillips Alaska has contracted with Nabors Alaska Drilling for a new coiled tubing drilling rig, the company’s president, Trond-Erik Johansen, told the Resource Development Council’s annual conference in Anchorage Nov.

Increased activity. Since 2012 BP has increased its North Slope activity level by more than 50 percent – Continue reading


Loose Lips: Walker admin rumors continue. Paging AAA Moving and Storage. Basic math at ASD?

loose lipsOver 100 people turned out Monday evening in Palmer to show their support at a fundraiser for Gov-elect Bill Walker at John Lee’s New Horizons’ hangar. Normally, you don’t see a lot of Democrats in the Mat-Su, but I’m told there was a gaggle of them on that night. In fact, the only member of the all- Republican Mat-Su legislative delegation who showed was Rep. Lynn Gattis.  Some familiar faces spotted: Palmer Mayor DeLana Johnson, Dave and Dana Cruz, Mat-Su School Superintendent Deena Paramo, John and Linda Combs, school board member Ole Larson, Terry Snyder, Bob Williams, Diane Straub, Eddie Grasser, Doug Glenn, Mat-Su Borough Assemblymen Steve Colligan and Ron Arvin, Janet Kincaid and John Shepherd.

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze has added DEC Legislative Liaison Brandon Brefczynski to his 2015 legislative session staff. Prior to joining DEC, Brefczynski worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole).

Both of outgoing Rep. Lindsey Holmes’ staffers will be working for members of the House leadership. Grace Abbott will work for Rep. Charisse Millett and Robert Ervine is going to Rep. Craig Johnson’s office.

There was another fundraiser on Tuesday evening for Gov.-elect Bill Walker. This one was held at the AGC’s offices in Anchorage. About 80 guests, give or take, showed for the event including: Derald Schoon, Mark Pfeffer, Sen. Cathy Giessel, Joey Merrick, Aves Thompson from the Trucking Association, Meg Nordale, AK AFL-CIO’s Vince Beltrami, Dave Cruz, Ross Thompson from Pruhs Construction, John MacKinnon, and former Palin COS Mike Tibbles to name a few. Word is that a few Parnell administration types obviously hoping to make nice and keep their jobs also showed. Continue reading


Comment of the day: Should state workers fly first class?

This, from reader Ah Ha,  is something I’ve often noticed and wondered about:

It seems to me that there ought to be a law, any airline ticket purchased by the State of Alaska for travel between Anchorage and Juneau or vice versa should only be valid for seats in rows 14 and higher. It also seems to me that there are a lot of State employee’s who are piling up miles and gold member benefits paid for by the State. What gives?

To take the discussion further: Why should state workers earn airline miles on their personal accounts when traveling on the state dime? How much money would it save if those miles went into a state pot and were used for travel?


Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.28

  • Before heading out to go gangbusters at our businesses, you might want to stop by the bank and withdraw some cash. Politico explains that to many in the Black Hat hacker world, today is known as Hack Friday as it has been established that cybercrime is unstoppable thus leaving our commerce sector vulnerable to not just theft, but attack.
  • Reuters is reporting that Saudi Arabia’s oil minister told fellow OPEC members that they weren’t going to cut production so that they could effectively kill the shale oil boom in the U.S. On Friday, oil dropped again to about $72 a barrel. Alaska’s current budget relies on $117 barrel per day oil.
  • Alaska Airlines knows their customer base and shows it when they added a flight to Juneau for Inauguration Day. Gov.-elect Bill Walker showed his appreciation.
  • Nevada has become the first state in the nation to suspend Uber’s operations.  Apparently, all the great PR advice it’s getting from David Plouffe and company, which it badly needs, isn’t getting through to the court system.

Continue reading


Alaska Airlines ads new flight to Juneau on Inauguration Day

Alaska Airlines will be adding a new flight from Anchorage to Juneau to accommodate those who want to witness the inauguration on Monday. The flight leaves Anchorage at 8:30 a.m., and arrives in Juneau at 10:10 a.m. The inauguration will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

The return flight will leave Juneau at 5:15 p.m., arriving in Anchorage at 7:00 p.m. The cost is $116 one-way, before taxes and fees.

In a press release, Gov.-elect Bill Walker said that he appreciated Alaska Airlines’ recognition of  Alaskans who want to attend the event.


Inside/Outside morning news update for 11.27


  • Lots of politicians and political wonks charge for speeches. A lucky few get to charge lots for speeches.  There’s nothing new or surprising about this 21st century political fact. That’s why the sudden attention regarding Hillary Clinton’s UCLA speech is puzzling. The Washington Post has the most in-depth look at this $300K speech fee and the fact that she insists that hummus and crudité is in her green room, amongst other things. Is this just the most recent in Hillary bashing during a slow media cycle or is there something to this I’m not grasping?
  • Politico has a guide to the Republican Senate and their new inner warring factions. Who will win?  The Young Guns or the Gavel Bangers?
  • APOC rejected Charlo “F*#k It, I Quit” Greene’s objection to its subpoena to further investigate potential campaign finance law violations.
  • Speaking of marijuana issues, the Fairbanks Daily Miner has details of a Fairbanks-area special inter-governmental work session of the three Assembly/City Councils (Fairbanks Borough, North Pole and Fairbanks) and the public to guide local laws on how to manage the-soon-to-be legal marijuana.

Continue reading


Giving thanks to politics in Alaska

It’s 11:30 on Thanksgiving Eve, and I’m wrung out and I still have to figure out how to cook the moose roast that’s thawing and dripping blood over my counter. And I have to write this piece about what some of our politicians are doing this Thanksgiving and I have to try to put some heart into it, because, if I’m going to write about them at all, they deserve some heart. They’ve worked so hard in the last few months. And if I’m wrung out, imagine how they and their families must feel.

I took a trip to Hawaii alone recently where I tried not to think about politics, because thinking about politics, day and night like I have been, is relatively new to me, and I wonder if I approve of what it’s doing to me. Politics can be a nasty business, and sometimes I don’t know if I have the guts for it, which are constantly roiling.  You might not know this from my writing, but I hate–more than I hate licorice or cigarettes or snobbery–watching people who are trying to do good things for the state writhe under scrutiny. And it’s particularly torturous when I’m the one who’s doing the scrutinizing, which I often have to do. I also hate watching people lose, even the politicians who I really don’t like. I hate the crestfallen expressions, the fallen hopes and dreams. I hate gotcha moments. (I hate sometimes enjoying reporting gotcha moments.) I hate the nasty comments on my site. Sometimes I just hate politics.

All of which might makes me wonder, a lot, if I’m particularly ill-suited to do what I’m doing.

But then sometimes I love politics. Or maybe it’s better to say that I love the way that Alaskans love politics. It can give people, including me, an excuse to be more tribal and smaller than we would otherwise would be. But I also think that it can bring out the best in us, particularly here in Alaska, where it’s so close and intimate, and where we’re all needed. Continue reading


Robin Brena’s firm buying Walker’s law firm

Today it was confirmed that Brena, Bell & Clarkson is in the process of buying Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s law firm, Walker Richards, where Craig Richards, who is Walker’s pick for attorney general, is a partner. Walker’s daughter Lindsay and his wife also practiced law at the firm. The terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but they will be subject to public disclosure.

Robin Brena owns Brena, Bell & Clarkson, and is best known, at least among the media, for his work for local governments and relatively small energy companies against the big ones. He’s an artful, often successful lawyer. He and Walker’s firm have joined forces in the past in their work for municipalities on the trans-Alaska pipeline tax valuation.

Brena chaired the Walker-Mallott transition committee on oil and gas issues.


Meet the Walker bunch

Adam, Tessa, Bill, Donna, Lindsay, Jordan

Adam, Tessa, Bill, Donna, Lindsay, Jordan

Gov. elect-Bill Walker is nothing if not intriguing. By now, most know that he’s a lawyer from Valdez, who’s been involved in fighting for a natural gas pipeline. And now they know that he plans to unify the state. But because his time in the spotlight– between Sept. 1 when the unity ticket was announced and the general election–was so truncated, much is unknown. Walker has repeatedly said that his campaign has been a family affair, and indeed, his family seem like an extraordinarily tight-knit group who were an integral part of his campaign. The whole bunch of them, his daughters Lindsay and Tessa, and sons Adam and Jordan, and their spouses worked tirelessly for the campaign. People who weren’t much involved, however, don’t know much about the seemingly healthy and happy bunch, and enough people have asked me about them that I thought I’d get some information on them.

Here’s a brief biographical sketch of Donna and the four kids:

First Lady-elect Donna Walker is 60 years old,. She graduated from high school in Hawaii and college in California. She came to Alaska in 1976 and worked on the oil pipeline construction as the recreation director at Glennallen camp.  She met and married Bill in Valdez and they went off to law school together at the University of Puget Sound School of Law. She’s been working as a lawyer with Bill at the Walker Richards law firm and has four children.   Continue reading


Comments of the day: Should the AG be more than a “consigliere” for the governor?

Here’s Lynn Willis and Jon K going at it, as they tend to do, over Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s choice of  his law partner for attorney general:

Lynn Willis November 26, 2014 at 11:11 am

Eventually Alaska will realize the mistake our founders made by allowing the A.G. to be appointed and not elected. While the appointment option may occasionally produce a person with a “pure heart” who is motivated primarily to serve the public, it often results in the appointment of nothing more than a “consigliere” for the Governor.

Perhaps this latest appointee will be a true advocate for Alaskans; however, our recent history has not been so inspiring. Recent appointees were seemingly motivated to first protect the boss who appointed them from political embarrassment (or worse) as appeared to be the case with Dan Sullivan regarding the creation of the state job for a sitting legislator followed by the refusal of Sullivan’s successor Michael Geraghty to pursue the National Guard investigation as a formal judicial inquiry/investigation. And what efforts were taken by the Office of the A.G. to focus efforts of the office of the A.G. on such matters as the five-year release of Sulfolane from the North Pole Refinery or the sole-source contract to refurbish Anchorage legislative office buildings at an exorbitant cost?

Jon K November 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

Lynn, for the love of god, please stop spreading misinformation about Sullivan. How many times do we have to go over this?

Lynn Willis November 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm Continue reading


Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.26

  • The events of Ferguson are beginning to have ripple affects that has Alaska ramifications. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) proposes for law enforcement across the nation to wear body cameras. The Hill explains what proponents of the legislation have to say about Cleaver’s legislation.
  • The gov-elect’s pick for Attorney General has tongues a waggin’ since Craig Richards is Walker’s law partner. The other three appointments have elicited little more than an, “eh.”
  • Les Gara (D) has plans to file a bill that prevents attack ads from appearing in future taxpayer funded general election guide, per the Juneau Empire.
  • Three months after the epic explosion of a rocket at the state-owned Kodiak Launch Facility, cleanup continues, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
  • The Energy Guardian outlines the Obama Administration’s latest set of smog standards.
  • The Juneau Empire has an editorial to end all editorials. Their frustration over The Road has apparently reached operatic levels. Exhibit A: their headline; Give us the whole road.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski talks with KTVA’s Rhonda McBride about her upcoming priorities as chair of the Energy committee, and chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. The priorities: The King Cove Road, offshore drilling, and of course, ANWR, which some skeptics might say is like asking for world peace. But it’s the holiday season so we’ll nod our heads politely.

Continue reading


Walker picks law partner Richards to be state’s attorney general

Gov.-elect Bill Walker announced four more appointments today. (Read the full release with bios below.) Pat Pitney will be the director of the Office of Management and Budget; he’ll retain Guy Bell as director of administrative services for the office of the governor and will also retain Department of Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger.

Pending confirmation by two-thirds of the Legislature, the state’s new attorney general will be Craig Richards. Richards is Walker’s law partner. He was born and raised in Fairbanks, has a law degree from Washington & Lee University and an MBA from Duke University. He clerked for U. S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline, and was an associate at Wohlforth, Vassar, Johnson & Brecht in Anchorage before joining what later became Walker Richards. (The law firm, where Walker’s wife Donna and his daughter also work, is for sale. The firm’s website was dark on Tuesday.)

In the press release, Richards said that he will review as soon as possible Alaska’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision that forced that state to recognize gay marriage, and the National Guard issue.

“I also look forward to utilizing my experience in finance, natural resource development, and taxation to support Governor Walker as the state gets to work on these and many other important issues.” Richards said.

Since joining Walker Richards, Continue reading


General election certified

The general election was certified on Monday night, meaning that all the votes have been counted. Click here for the full results. What’s most surprising to me is that Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan won by  318 fewer votes and a slightly smaller percentage than did the Walker-Mallott ticket, which formed Sept 1, only about 2 months before the election.

Here’s a screen grab of the results of those two races:
screen grab 11
election screen grab 1


Planned Parenthood approves of Walker’s plans to expand Medicaid

This is from a press release from Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest:

Under the shaky and soon to end leadership of Sean Parnell, Alaska is one of over 20 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. According to an April Gallup poll, states that have expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchanges have seen a higher rate of decline in the number of uninsured. At the time, the 21 states and the District of Columbia which have both expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchange, saw an average decline in uninsured of 2.5 percent.  The other 29 states that didn’t enact both measures had a dip in uninsured of less than 1 percent on average.